What’s being done in Westfield to clean the city’s drinking water?

Hampden County

Firefighting foam from Barnes Air National Guard Base contaminated Westfield wells.

With every twist of the tap comes worry for some Westfield residents. 

“When they started listing known health effects of PFAS contaminated water supplies, all of a sudden I just started crying. Everyone in my immediate family suffers from at least one,” said a Westfield resident. 

A Defense Department study found high levels of perfluorinated compounds in water supplies near more than 100 military bases across the country.

PFAS is a chemical formerly used in military firefighting foam. The compound has been linked to birth defects and cancer. 

Westfield needs a multi-million dollar filtration system to purify the city’s drinking water. The city filed a $50-million lawsuit against three manufacturers of the foam.

Westfield City Councilor Ralph Figy told 22News, “If we get some substantial money, it should go back to the water payers. I mean, they didn’t create the issue, they shouldn’t have to foot the bill. However, we do need to get clean water.”

Three wells have been taken offline due to contamination concerns. Fewer operating wells can lead to reduced water pressure in the city’s fire hydrants, making it harder to fight fires. 

On May 3, the Westfield City Council will vote on a $13 million bond for a new water filtration system. 

Some businesses already have individual filtration systems to clean out the chemicals. 

“Ours was around seven or eight hundred dollars but that was a cost that we knew we really had to make because we wanted to focus on the quality of everything. By having the filter on, we’re stopping the contaminants from coming in,” said Ted Dobek, owner of Circuit Coffee.

While the city waits for a filtration system, residents have organized to have Westfield participate in a national PFAS health study.

Kristen Mello, co-founder of Westfield Residents Advocating for Themselves told 22News, “Blood testing, and we need that as immediately as possible, will give us just a snapshot of how much of these chemicals we still have in our bodies right now. These chemicals bioaccumulate, so every time you drink more, it just stays with you.”

The EPA has not yet set a “maximum contaminant levels, which would create responsibility for a legally enforceable cleanup.

The EPA will be visiting communities impacted by the chemicals and will develop a new management plan by the fall.

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